Since early 2015, we’ve said that Apple could deliver as great dominance and profitability in AR as it has in mobile today. Its end-to-end ecosystem of hardware, software, app store, developers and retail are natural advantages that can’t be beaten (and many have tried). Dominance across all four AR waves looks like it could be the innovation for which Tim Cook is remembered, and take Apple beyond Steve Jobs’ legacy to make it a 100-year company IP Networking Solutions.

 

Facebook’s user base, platforms (Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp), developer ecosystem, mobile AR developer tools, mobile market experience and financial muscle guarantee its success in mobile AR software. However, Facebook’s entry into the phone hardware market did not go to plan, and Oculus is orders of magnitude smaller than the rest of Facebook. This makes a mobile AR hardware play (i.e. a Facebook AR phone) look unlikely.

 

Mark Zuckerberg believes in smartglasses’ long-term future, but a head-to-head battle with Apple in this market might not be a fair fight. Apple’s inherent advantages and consumer hardware DNA make it the most valuable company in the world (mostly), and Facebook would be building a smartglasses hardware ecosystem from scratch. Facebook could still launch smartglasses, but sticking to its knitting as an AR software company is always on the table. Either way, expect significant Facebook investment in AR beyond the Camera Effects Platform Where to shop in Hong Kong.

 

Tencent has as great mobile AR software potential in China as Facebook outside it, focused on the more than 846 million folks who use WeChat. But if Tencent really wants dominance across all four AR waves in China, it could approach the AR hardware market in a unique way. Enabled by the market share of WeChat, its app store strength and the fragmented nature of the Chinese phone market, Tencent could produce a domestic version of Apple’s AR ecosystem together with major domestic phone makers. This could result in Tencent AR hardware, software, app store, developers and WeChat as the dominant Chinese AR platform. As with Facebook, Tencent also could avoid AR hardware altogether and remain a pure software player.

 

Google’s Maps, VPS and data resources give it significant advantages in mobile AR software outside China, but it doesn’t have mobile messaging platforms like Facebook or an integrated ecosystem like Apple. Google Tango relies on hardware partners outside the top five globally (e.g. Lenovo, ASUS), but Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo haven’t signed up yet. If Google wins support from these four companies, the road to tethered smartglasses and standalone smartglasses for consumers becomes clearer. But if it doesn’t, Google would need to find another path (potentially as an evolution of Google Glass Enterprise Edition). Baidu faces similar opportunities and challenges in China, but with a different set of domestic competitors.

 

Whether or not Google partners with them, Samsung, Huawei and other phone makers don’t have the advantages of Apple’s ecosystem, Facebook/Tencent’s messaging platforms or Google/Baidu’s data to support them in mobile AR hardware, tethered smartglasses or standalone smartglasses. To break out of today’s status quo, investments and M&As for totally new AR capabilities might be required hong kong day tour .